10 Tips to Boost Speech and Language In Your Toddler

Top 10 Tips to Boost Speech and Language in your toddler

My daughter G is delayed in her speech as she is Globally Developmentally Delayed, she started walking a month before she turned 3 years old and that took a massive amount of intense physiotherapy to get her to that point.

When she began walking it was like a dream had come true. It was never certain she would walk. The endless tears we had just to achieve rolling on to her front made the dream seem very distant.

But she made it.

Now a year on – although still unstable and needing further physiotherapy to build strength and learn new skills – like climbing the stairs- I can relax in the knowledge she can walk and just hope she is able to achieve enough strength to be able to walk unaided in the future – so the next the area we are tackling with ferocity is her speech and language.

From 6 months old G babbled and though it was indicated with her condition Chromosome 18q that speech is often delayed- I remained in my bubble of denial that she was not falling into that category and would speak just fine.

When she babbled and made sounds it was the confirmation I needed – she was going to speak just fine.

However by a year old she was still babbling, a year and a half the same.

I became despondent. I read to her, sang to her, spoke constantly to her (even whilst walking the street pushing her in the pram) to make sure her brain consumed enough language.

So I sought help from the SALT (speech and language therapy team) in my area and was told there was nothing to worry about – they don’t intervene until they are 2!

At that time she was heavily into physiotherapy and I could not consider another therapy as the expense was immense. So I continued doing all I could to promote her language.

Her babble started to develop and I could hear more identifiable letter sounds like “da” “ba” for example.

At 2 and a half she started getting speech and language therapy from the SALT- which if I am honest was a load of crap   not working for her.

Age 3 she was saying “Daddy” “bubbles” and  “oh no!” Not a lot but progress.

So I got a private Speech and Language therapist.

That was a MASSIVE turning point.

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Here are my top 10 Tips:

Speech and language tips caringinthechaos.com

  1. Play with your child – This is so basic and I know we all do, but taking the time to switch off all distractions and give your child your undivided attention is an unimaginable boost for them. Playing 1:1 gives you the chance to really engage together, there is opportunity for your child to hear you more clearly, look at your mouth and imitate.
  2. Let them lead – I did not realise how much I lead my daughters play, picking the toys, modelling activities and a lot of the time she showed no interest and so I would loose interest in playing! But choosing maybe 3 toys and then letting them pick one and letting them initiate how the ‘game’ went opened up a world of possibilities. Often they will make sounds during play and that is your chance to promote ‘language’ – so as they bang their truck against the table – you say “Bang, Bang, Bang!” (Instead of stop banging!)
  3. Be silent – So you’ve said “Bang, Bang, Bang” what now? Go silent.
    Resist the urge to say “Say Bang” . Go quiet (for a few seconds not the rest of the game!).  Quite often they will try and imitate or make a sound to show they understand. If not – just repeat the sequence. And go quiet again.Silence gives them time to respond.Whatever they respond with -congratulate them “Well done – yes Bang Bang Bang”
  4. Congratulate themPositive affirmation is a great motivator – who doesn’t love hearing “Well done” “Good job” – This way they will be motivated to try again.
  5. Stop asking questions – “What do you want to play?” “This one?” “No?” “What do you want to do?”  – sound familiar? yes we question them all the time.Questions add pressure – especially to a child who is not ‘speaking’ in a way we understand.  Try and limit questions – instead re phrase to statements – “Lets go and play!” “Lets pick the truck, doll and ball” “Okay we are finishing the game now” – This models the context. The language and symbols get more familiar and there is less pressure to answer a question.  What I found when I did this is G started to initiate play more – and verbalised with gestures i.e. “Ball” and pointing.
  6. Use their interests – G loves music and dancing, this was a great motivator, I would play You Tube music videos and pause it and shout “Stop” and then press play and shout “Go” she loved it and started to mimic. This explains why Justin Bieber has 1Billion Youtube Views for “Baby”!
  7. Sit in front of her/sit Close – Be close by when you speak to ensure they know you are talking to them – no more than a meter I was told (she has glue ear so another reason to stay close as hearing fluctuates) Being able to see our mouths when we speak again promotes an awareness about where and how sounds are made.  They will begin to mimic more and more.
  8. Turn off the TV – The TV is great, even for language – Mr Tumble is a great example of a show that helps language and sign.  However, having some time each day without the TV where you can read or play provides more opportunity to be around language and copy it.
  9. Be enthusiastic – I have to say myself, mum, dad and brother are all a little flamboyant when it comes to playing, we play with energy, laughter, bundles of enthusiasm and it just excites G. She screams, laughs and wants to join in – this is replicated within some (I cant be enthusiastic all the time!!) of our play especially when Speech and Language is the focus. Keeping their interest is half of the battle won.
  10. Have Fun – I found this very tiring when I first began, I didn’t know how to play with my daughter as weird as that sounds.  I was a therapist mummy always mentally ticking off Physio/Occupational Therapy goals within every activity. It was draining and calculated. This was totally different – you had to let go and let them be them and help ease the language into the play.


After the first one or two sessions I saw a MASSIVE improvement in her speech. She started saying “Come on” when she wanted to play. Her play skills suddenly developed and her attention span extended.  Towards the end of 2015 she started saying “Mummy” which was emotional (Still is!) and she is getting stronger each week with her language.

We still have a long way to go – we are at 2-3 word sentences but she is getting a lot clearer and enjoying using her language more.

What have you found helpful in propelling your child’s speech and language? I would love to hear your tips… x


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43 thoughts on “10 Tips to Boost Speech and Language In Your Toddler

  1. Thanks for sharing this – loads of really helpful tips. Have you read Babytalk by Sally Ward? Lots of similar ideas. My son has just turned two and I have some concerns about his speech (he didn’t babble until 10 months, and has been slow to say any words) but am getting conflicting advice regarding whether he is delayed or not – nursery say not, the Health Visitor says yes, but they won’t do anything at this point. So I’ve been doing lots of these types of things with him, and it’s great to see that his speech is slowly coming – he has said lots of words now, it’s just that he only tends to use a select few still. I’m trying to be a bit more chilled out about it, but it’s difficult sometimes! #BloggerClubUK

    1. I have to be honest I have not read this book – but will have a google so thanks! I am still on the journey but these tips have really helped us along. Go with your gut – if you think he is struggling get an opinion on a private therapist they are super friendly (in my experience!) even a talk on the phone can put your mind at ease. Boys generally seem to develop language a bit slower than girls so that might be the hesitance you are picking up from the nursery. Play as much as you can with him, play therapy is what an NHS/Private therapist will encourage at first because before any language will come his play needs to be at a certain ‘stage’. Try not to stress (Which is hard for us mums!) as sounds like you are on the ball! x

      1. Thanks for replying! I think my gut feel is that he’ll get there, he’s just towards the later side of doing everything. You’re right in focussing on the ‘play’ aspect – this was what I found slightly frustrating about the Babytalk book, that it focusses so much on play, and my son just wasn’t interested for a long time. But now we’re definitely able to play together and interact much better, which is really helping. I think if I’m still concerned in a few months then a call to a private therapist might be a good idea – thanks for suggesting that, I had no idea before I read your post that there were private practitioners out there!

        1. I totally feel your frustration G was not interested in playing either – but that was until it became apparent I was leading and not sitting back (so to speak) and let her lead. My speech and language therapist is great she records you (scary) while you play and then you watch it back. It really highlighted how much I questioned her G i.e. “do you want to do this?” it totally stopped her engagement. Literally after the first session when I saw that – G started saying “come on” and pulling me into her room to play 🙂 give the tips a go, and def get advice – there is never any harm getting advice or help early when it comes to education xx

  2. That’s wonderful advice and good t hear she reacted well to the (private) SALT. You might like the Bauble Babbles series I ran over Christmas which was an idea a day to help your child with their speech and language. Both are boys have speech delay though its a lot more obvious in the younger one who is currently five.


    Glad it’s coming along for you. xx

    1. Oh brilliant thank you I will certainly check it out, nice to connect with someone on a similar journey. It can be a lonely journey as all of my daughters peers and family her age can speak. I hope she continues to pick up language as she is so funny I want to know what she is saying to me as I know its cheeky! x

  3. Fabulous tips Nadine I particularly like the sit close and stop asking questions. If children feel pressure they won’t speak. My tips would be model model model. Play alongside your child and model phrases and they will begin to copy. For us the biggest help was other children and notably his sibling. Going to nursery meant a massive change. TY for linking up with #FamilyFun 🌸

    1. Thank You Catie, that is great advice, yes phrases are often picked up (most notably seems to be me telling her “no don’t do that” :/ ) going to nursery and having time with other children has definitely helped, also watching children on you tube videos seems to capture her attention! x

  4. Great tips! My daughter seems to be at the cusp of language (she’s great at saying “dadada” and “yayaya” but not much else), and I was looking for ways to encourage her language development. She’s still pretty young, though, so I’ll try to focus on play like you suggested and not put too much pressure on her. #FamilyFun

  5. Thank you for writing this, I was so interested to see what the tips would be…I naively assumed there would be a few that you see everywhere but your list is so completely refreshing. It’s really really interesting. Play with them one on one…yes! Be silent and don’t bombard with questions, so wise! It sounds like the approach you are taking with your daughter to develop her speech will also be of huge benefit to your mother daughter relationship and the talking ‘opening up’ relationship you have as she gets older. Rhyming poems can also be useful for language development…they don’t have to be necessarily children’s ones (as long as the theme captures their attention)…I think it must be something to do with the rythym. #familyfun

    1. Thank you 🙂 that is so kind. I am glad you liked. I can’t take credit its all Ive been taught – and it is crazy how once I started to do more consciously I saw a massive difference. The Rhyming poems is a great idea as G loves music and nursery rhymes – she seems to respond more if I sing an instruction lol, thanks will have a think about how to do that more x

    1. Thank you, I hope it can help others on a similar journey. It is frustrating when you want to help your child speak and so any tools that may help I am all for sharing! x

  6. Totally been there as all three of my boys have global developmental delays, and all started speaking after the age of 3. My oldest was fascinated with blocks, but he would line them up and not play. So I would hand over hand stack them and let him knock them over, repeating the colors and using the blocks to teach directions (“red block up , yellow block down,”). Then we moved on to alphabet blocks and I discovered he liked spelling. So I would put an object in front of him and spell it with the blocks. We got to the point where he could look at the object and spell it himself with the blocks, then I could say it and he could spell without having to see the object(like a car). He then started trying to say the words he spelled. He wasn’t into sign language at preschool, but I decided to try some library dvds. He got excited that he could finger spell and sign words, it was a great beginning to language. Before he started speaking, he was writing on paper what he needed. I noticed that my second son loves music. So I started singing while I was cooking, cleaning, whenever he was in my vicinity. My 3rd son benefitted from all of this. I read to my boys a lot. Even when it seemed they weren’t paying attention or absorbed in something else. It was difficult because they didn’t interact with each other, and there weren’t any children in our neighborhood, but we made it through. I’m still learning the best ways to help foster language for my oldest, and he’s 10. He s tries his best everyday, both verbally, through sign, and with his Dynavox(like an Ipad).

    1. Wow 3 boys, that is a big challenge, I am so excited by your blocks suggestion! That is a great way to introduce spelling. I am definitely going to try this – thank you! Singing is a great one for my daughter as she loves a good nursery rhyme, so I do and try and incorporate as much as possible, but maybe I need to think of some more creative songs! Reading is a tough one, she pays attention a lot more than she did but she can just switch off and walk away/start playing with something else which can be frustrating and demoralising for me – but will keep at it as I don’t know what is going in! Thank you for your comment 🙂

  7. Fantastic post, i’ve bookmarked this and will read over in more detail as i think i need to look at our play and style. I’ve heard some of these before but the way you’ve described them actually makes sense and I do some already but going to try them all! thanks for sharing and it sounds like a beautiful journey together. hearing them say mummy is so lovely 🙂 #familyfun

    1. Thank you Georgina! we have a fab speech and language therapist – she MADE me re think how I was playing because I automatically thought I was doing okay. She records you playing and you watch it back – its a real eye opener. For me – us – changing how I was (stopping with the questioning and letting her lead) has been amazing. And yes it has actually made our bond stronger 🙂 I hope it helps you too 🙂

  8. I’m very proud of my daughter and her journey with her daughter. Keep up the good work. Your daughter appreciates your strength, drive and motivation to keep going forwards in your efforts to find positive and stimulating ways of teach and support her.
    Love you my daughter x

  9. Great tips for incorporating/sneaking speech therapy into every day activities! I honestly never felt like formal speech therapy ever really did much for helping my daughter begin speaking. But doing activities like you mention sure did! Thanks for sharing at the Special Needs Family Link Share! I hope you’ll stop by every weekend!

    1. Speech and language therapy that was first offered did not do very much to help my daughter but this focus on play has been a big turning point and to be honest the most beneficial to our relationship 🙂 thanks for stopping by, I certainly will be back x

  10. This is a fantastic post, so informative and helpful. How wonderful that you found so many things which worked for you- it must have been incredible when she said ‘Mummy’! #KCACOLS

    1. It was / Is 🙂 Still an on going journey but helped so much that had to share – hopefully others will have similar success x

  11. Great tips there, one to one with no distractions is so important anyway. I have worked very briefly with a SALT, and one tip that was helpful and fun for the little boy I was working with was to talk to each other in front of a mirror. He loved to see his face and his mouth moving in front of the mirror.
    Amanda. #kcacols

    1. So simple – but very effective. As women we tend to try and fill in the silences, but giving a chance to respond can be just what the child needs x

  12. Brilliant tips! I am going down the SLT route once again but this time with my youngest.

    Another tip I have is when they do start talking, to get them to repeat the words to you but broken down. Like Bus would be ‘b’ and then ‘us’. That really helped my eldest.

    Laura x x x

    1. Thats so true, I guess will then be the foundations to move on to spelling – thank you 🙂 x

  13. Thanks for your tips. Cygnet is 20 months old now and although I know that he understands a hell of a lot, he isn’t saying anything. I find it really frustrating and often ask him questions. I say to him ‘say yes’ and he nods his head. He is a noisy child and I think that he understands what he is babbling to himself. I just have no clue. I appreciate your tips. Pen x #KCACOLS

    1. It is hard and totally understand how frustrating it is for you as you just want to understand! Boys do tend to take a little longer with language also. The fact he takes note and nods his head is great as he is engaging and responding! Hope the tips help as it did for me xx

  14. These are great tips, especially for our 2yo who has Autism and isn’t speaking yet. We’re getting closer day by day, but its a long journey. Thanks for sharing #KCACOLS

  15. Hi Nadine, I’m really sorry to hear of the problems with your daughters delayed speech, but I’m so glad that the private speech and language therapy is having an impact for you. I love how you have remained positive and started actively promoting language with your daughter, it’s interesting as only today I was reading a book to my little one and said “beep, beep” and I’m pretty sure that she copied me. The tips that you list here are excellent, it has made me realise that I don’t spend enough time playing and encouraging speech with my little one, so tomorrow I will spend more time (instead of blogging etc). It’s interesting what you say about toys, I always get loads of toys out, and she probably feels a little overwhelmed, so tomorrow I’ll just get out a few and see what happens. I hope that your daughters speech continues to improve for you Nadine. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back next Sunday. Claire x

  16. Sorry I have no tips because your tips say it all! I was a slow starter for speaking and I got there. It’s a great post to remind us to let our children play regardless of their speech level! I’ll start putting these into action now x

  17. This is a fantastic and really informative post. Your tips are great and will be really useful to so many other parents out there. It’s great to hear your that daughter’s speech is now progressing thanks to your patience and encouragement too 🙂 #thelist
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  18. This is wonderful information. Our foundation, the Orange Effect Foundation, funds speech therapy and speech technology to children and young adults. We’re hoping our blog raises awareness and support for our mission. theorangeeffect.org
    Thank you for your consideration of this request!

  19. Some really helpful tips there! Definitely agree with turning the telly off! Also being silent and not filling in the gaps. My mummy has a bad habit of finishing my sentences! #TheList xx

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